Goals for 2100: More Efficient Use of Educated People’s Time

15Feb08

Society invests a fortune in the training of doctors, Ph.Ds, and other sorts of specialists and experts.  Then society requires these people to spend hundreds of hours of their time, each year, dealing with trivial stuff that could be done just as well, if not better, by others.

Example:  filling out forms.  There are rental or mortgage application forms, grant application forms, credit check forms … there is really no end to the number of forms that a person can fill out in a year.  There are times when the trained specialist does need to deal with those forms personally.  But there are many other times when s/he does not.  It would be in society’s interest to make it easy for the specialist to hand off this sort of task to someone — a paralegal, say — who does like to deal with forms, or who is making a business out of it — someone who has not invested years in becoming a lawyer or CPA, and who therefore is not too busy or expensive for the job.

Another example:  commuting.  Society can force the trained specialist to sit in traffic, just like everyone else.  If the specialist were responsible for the forms, the traffic jams, and the other wastes of time that make him/her less productive, then it might be just as well that s/he does have to sit in traffic:  it may remind him/her to do something about the problem.  But for the most part, the highly trained specialist who is spending hours filling out forms, or sitting in traffic, does not have any training or influence in that sort of problem.  The people who create forms and traffic tend to be rich people and politicians.  Many times, those people can afford limo drivers, helicopters, or other ways to avoid the delay.  That’s a world apart from the anthropologist or biomedical researcher whose precious ability to contribute to society is just being dribbled away.

If anthropologists qualified for a special seat on the train, a special diamond lane on the freeway, or other perquisites designed to make the best use of their time, young people might have a different impression of the value of becoming a highly educated specialist.  When the only people who can afford those sorts of perquisites are bankers and politicians, then naturally those are the directions in which young people’s ambitions turn.

By 2100, I hope, society will have recognized that it is dreadfully wasteful to train specialists, and then make it difficult for them to make the kind of contribution to society that they would like to make.

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One Response to “Goals for 2100: More Efficient Use of Educated People’s Time”

  1. 1 Roman

    Unfortunately, equal value is not as easily recognised as equal rights. How might we engender and promote respect for rulers graduated not only in $ and perquisites?


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